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No wall between U.S.-Mexico border for medtech industry

While some talk about building a wall, the medical technology industry is building an economic development bridge between the San Diego and Tijuana regions. Yesterday, the mayors of the two cities on either side of the U.S.-Mexico border visited two U.S.-owned factories producing medical equipment in Mexico.

While some talk about building a wall, the medical technology industry is building an economic development bridge between the San Diego and Tijuana regions. Yesterday, the mayors of the two cities on either side of the U.S.-Mexico border visited two U.S.-owned factories producing medical equipment in Mexico.

Mayors Kevin Falconer and Jorge Astiazarán toured the plants of Welch Allyn, a maker of diagnostic equipment, and medtech heavyweight Medtronic, which makes insulin pumps, among other medical devices. The two factories employ nearly 5000 people, reports the Times of San Diego. The joint mayoral visit comes in advance of a conference next month in San Diego organized by Washington-based medical technology lobbying group AdvaMed.

Medtronic Mexico
San Diego Mayor Kevin Falconer and Tijuana mayor Jorge Astiazarán (center) visit the Medtronic plant in Mexico.

Both sides of the border have a significant stake in the life sciences. Groundbreaking research and development happens in the San Diego area, which has more than 42,000 employees working in that sector, according to San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. Meanwhile, much of the actual manufacturing is done across the border.

PlasticsToday has reported on the Tijuana region's emerging medtech hub in the past. "More than 40 firms employing approximately 35,000 people producing everything from disposables and stents to pacemaker components" are active in Tijuana, Gibert Ulloa, Director of Economic Development at Tijuana's inward investment agency told PlasticsToday at the time. Baja California, the Mexican state that includes Tijuana, Mexicali and Ensenada, is home to more than 70 medtech-related companies. The emergence of this cross-border region as a major player in medtech manufacturing has not gone unnoticed by AdvaMed, which represents nearly 80% of the U.S. medical technology industry, and UBM Canon, which organized MEDevice San Diego earlier this month and produces this website.

What everyone really will be talking about at MedTech Conference

AdvaMed's 2015 MedTech Conference comes to the San Diego Convention Center on October 5 to 7 with an ambitious agenda, covering everything from regulatory developments and business strategies to next-generation technologies. But the topic sure to be on everyone's lips, however, is AdvaMed CEO Steve Ubl who, Politico reports, is likely to leave the medtech association to head Big Pharma lobbying group, Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

Ubli has been a very effective leader at AdvaMed, notably spearheading a campaign to repeal the 2.3% medical device excise tax that is part of the Affordable Care Act. While he has not been successful in abolishing the tax, he did make it part of the national conversation, which is not a trivial accomplishment for an industry that rarely gets the media spotlight except when medical devices fail. Being the face of Big Pharma will present a set of new challenges for Ubl: The medical device industry generally inspires positive feelings among the general public, when it thinks about that industry at all, whereas everyone loves to hate Big Pharma.

Along with those big challenges comes a big paycheck: The current PhRMA CEO earned $3.6 million in 2013, compared with Ubl's $1.5 million, as reported by Politico.

At the time of writing, PhRMA said that a decision regarding the leadership change has not been made. Politico reports, however, that an announcement could come as early as next week.

TAGS: Medical
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